Working from Home?

With the recent covid-19 outbreak companies are urging people to work from home. If this lasts only a few weeks I can see many positive changes coming to working from home policies. Maybe some companies will even start pushing for it (because they can save money by having less office space).

If it takes longer though I think we’ll see productivity fall apart because most companies have no processes for remote work and most people will need some time to adjust to the new world.

App-like apps in the App Store

Next week marks the start of March. The 3rd of March also marks the date the new App Store Guidelines regarding HTML5 will go in to effect.

The update is clear. If you are building an app that offers real money gaming, lotteries, or charitable donations then you cannot use content that is not inside the binary. Specifically section 4, 5 and 6 of the App Store guidelines make this clear.

It’s good that Apple makes it explicit at least for these category of apps. They still have the big 4.2 catch all guideline in place though.

Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store.

I mean, this could probably apply to nearly every app in the App Store. In Dutch traffic law we have something called a ‘Kapstokartikel. This loosely translates to ‘Coat rack law’. It basically means that even if you aren’t breaking any of the predefined laws, but you are doing something reckless in traffic you can still be fined.

Apple’s 4.2 guideline feels a bit like this. Which is great for Apple, less great for developers trying to figure out if they can develop certain features for their app.

One more thing about the initial news article that notifies developers of this change.

The App Store Review Guidelines are designed to help developers create apps that are secure, high-quality, reliable, and that respect user privacy. In order to ensure this, we’ve always specified that all apps be self-contained bundles. This means that the core features and functionality of the app must be contained within the software’s binary, rather than made possible by referring users outside of the approved app — including through the use of HTML5. Apps that dynamically provide core features and functionality with web technology like HTML5 are best delivered through Safari, rather than through the curated App Store.

Although the current change only applies to certain set of App categories. The introduction makes it clear that this is something more generic that Apple has on it’s mind. It feels very much as the time that Apple pointed at Auto layout and said ‘Hey, you should use this, this is very cool’ only to introduce multiple iPhone sizes six months down the road, and requiring apps to support those sizes nine months later.

Push notifications on the iOS Simulator (Finally!)

If you’ve ever had to develop an application supporting Push notifications on iOS you might know that the development process is a bit janky. There is no good way to actually test your push notifications in the simulator so you have to resort to testing on an actual device and then sending your push notifications.

With Xcode 11.4 (beta) Apple finally made a big change, making it possible to just drag and drop a payload on the simulator and test your functionality in this way. Swift Lee did a great post on all the possibilities on using this new functionality that is worth checking out.

Untitled Goose Game

I was looking forward to this game for a while, but then never got around to actually playing it. Until last night that is, I bought the game on the Switch and went honking crazy. If you didn’t already, definitely check it out!

It might be time to replace my Firewatch phone background with a Goose..

Subscription Apps and Apple Arcade

Last week Flexbits released a new version of their calendar app Fantastical. There is some great stuff in there and seeing constant innovation on great Apple platform apps is great. But that’s not the most important part.

Flexbits changed their revenue model with this upgrade, instead of a one time purchase, or an upgrade pricing for previous major version users they are migrating over to a subscription model. They’re not the first (Adobe, Microsoft, Sketch to name a few) and definilty won’t be the last. Nor will the outcry of online publications regarding this subject.

And here’s the thing; as a developer I understand why developers are making this move, they need consistency, it’s hard to make a living, espeically when you are writing mobile software. Apple used to ask money for things like iWork (80$ for every major version), Aperture (doesn’t exist) and OS X upgrades (129$ for a single user comes to mind).

The first month of the App Store being around for the iPhone I spent 8$ on Super Monkey Ball. But quickly after it’s introduction an App Store app was either Free or 99¢. You can’t build a living on that, unless you are in the top 0.001% that reaches fame.

I looked it up, I bought Fantastical for iOS in 2015 for 4$. I got 4 years of use out of that app for the price of an overused coffee metaphor. I once got 1Password 3 for ‘free’ with a MacHeist bundle. I didn’t upgrade until 2 years ago, I probably got years of use out of that for nothing, and I skipped a version. Something a lot of people do, like using Photoshop CS2 in 2019 because you only use it once or twice a year.

In the world of subscription pricing this doesn’t happen, when you use the app you pay for it and you get the latest and greatest. As a consumer that makes me sad; because it means I probably won’t be using a lot of these apps anymore. I can only buy so many coffees a year, and I can only spend my money once. Just like the new Mac Pro isn’t for me, a lot of subscription apps aren’t for me.

I don’t think for one minute a developer cares I bought their app for 4$ 5 years ago. I mean they probably were happy at the time, but they spent that money a long time ago on food, or a beer. They’re looking forward to their next meal and me buying something once very 5 years isn’t going to cut it.

I hope, that just like skeuomorphism we are currently overcompensating and that someday in the future we will reach a point that we can address these issues. Apple Arcade for Apps maybe?

Mac Open Web, by Brian Warren

A collection of open and indie Mac, iOS, and web apps that help promote the open web.

I think I’ve heard of nearly every single one of them. But seeing them all together does make me happy about the options we have.

Losing the creative flame

One thing that has kept me busy the last few months is when do you stop with something? Every project has good days and bad days, when the bad days start overtaking the good days and you have a hard time finding the energy to start your work I think it might be time to rethink if you actually want to continue.

I’m not saying you should give up, but you do need to find a balance that keeps you happy. Last week Chris Hynes posted a series of blogposts about his time at Apple. His time there sounds amazing, he’s been part of some amazing projects and has some great stories to tell. It’s also something that resonated with my thoughts over the past few months.

The Aperture story is an amazing rollercoaster that sadly won’t suprise many people that have worked at a big corporte before. Fixed deadlines, throwing limitless amounts of engineers at the problem, scrapping features and dropping the ball on UX are just some of the quick fixes that will pass by you.

One bit specifically stood out to me:

Many people, including myself, developed long-term health problems. One person, as I mentioned, had a nervous breakdown, others just took forever to get any spark back in their careers. I would look these people in the eyes, and they had this look like someone close to them died.

When you’re in it I think it’s really hard to see if you’ve reached a tipping point or not. You either need very good self reflection skills or have a support system around you to notify you of changes in your behaviour.

I just hope I made the right choice.

Nintendo won’t release a new Switch in 2020

I’ve heard of quite a few people that are very interested in buying a Switch but feel that they are better of waiting with the Switch heading in to it’s 4th year of sales.

Last year they introduced a smaller Switch Lite (which can’t be connected to the TV) and updated the internals of the existing Switch

Hands down one of the most fun consoles I’ve ever owned. Four years in it has a great catalogue, with lots of games in it’s future horizon. If you find a good offer, this is probably the best time to buy one.

NetNewsWire for iOS

RSS feeds are one of the best things about the open web. Although I never was a real fan of the Google Reader interface, it was a great backend for many RSS reader apps. With more people thinking about where their content lives and if they own it; it becomes more important again to be able to keep track of your favourite publications and friends latest posts and many years on RSS is still a great way to do it.

When Blackpixel announced that Brent Simmons would have the ownership of NetNewsWire I was very excited. I’m even more excited now that I’ve got a beta version of the iOS app in my hands. Any feeds I should be following?

Low Power Mode for Mac laptops: making the case again

Marco Arment:

In light of today’s rumor that a Pro Mode may be coming that seems to offer benefits in the opposite direction,1 I wanted to re-make the case for a Low Power Mode on macOS — and explain why now is the time. Modern hardware constantly pushes thermal and power limits, trying to strike a balance that minimizes noise and heat while maximizing performance and battery life. Software also plays a role, trying to keep everything background-updated, content-indexed, and photo-analyzed so it’s ready for us when we want it, but not so aggressively that we notice any cost to performance or battery life. Apple’s customers don’t usually have control over these balances, and they’re usually fixed at design time with little opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances or customer priorities. The sole exception, Low Power Mode on iOS, seems to be a huge hit: by offering a single toggle that chooses a different balance, people are able to greatly extend their battery life when they know they’ll need it.

Computers today are fast. Heck, even the speaker on my cabinet is super fast. But battery life has always the biggest worry when working ‘on the go’. I remember when I went from my first Windows XP laptop to an intel Macbook and I was amazed by the battery life. I think I got a whopping 3 or 4 hours of watching video and listening to music between charges. That pretty much stayed the same until Intel did some amazing things with power management in 2013 and I think we got Macbook Airs that lasted well over 10 hours.

For the first time I could last a day in the library without having to charge my laptop. Well that is if I was actually doing what I was supposed to be doing and not playing OpenTTD or Minecraft on a group server. After that there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of progress in Battery life. The laptops got faster, but not much faster. I went from a 13” 2015 Macbook pro to a 15” 2017 Macbook pro, and except for Xcode build times there wasn’t much difference in day to day usage.

What I have noticed is that my battery life in practice did get worse though, mostly due to my Mac switching to discrete graphics because I have some utility running in the background, Spotlight indexing or Photos thinking ‘Now’ is a great time to re-analyse every single photo in my 1tb photo library.

Marco mentions some great tips in his post, and disabling Turbo Boost is one that I’ve done in the past when he talked about it on his podcast, and saw really positive results. Introducing a low power mode in macOS would be great, but I think I would be running it in 95% of the time when I’m disconnected from power, and only go full Turbo Boost when I’m connected to power.

Who knows maybe Apple will make Siri so smart that it will sense when you actually need the power or when it’s okay to take 10 seconds longer so you can enjoy a sip of your fine brewed coffee tea.

WWDC ‘19

So even though we’re in 2020 now I would still like to tell a bit about one of my highlights from 2019.

Me standing infront of the WWDC Banner

As an Apple Developer this is probably one of the most significant events of the year. This one week paves the year for most of the work that you’ll be doing during the summer and autumn season. Getting up to par with the new OSes, the new API’s, learning which API’s won’t be supported anymore and the realisation that you’ll have to start touching code you didn’t touch in 4 years.

I managed to arrive early in San José so I’d have some time to get used to the timezone and do some sight seeing. Basically the whole city is covered with WWDC signs, and everyone you see around is either going to the event or going to one of the smaller side events that have popped up in the recent years since Apple started selling out of tickets.

Keynote

Wake up early (is reverse jet-lag a thing?) and get in line for the Keynote. Meet the guy behind Apollo (the best third party Reddit app around), get a free pin and realise you have something in common with everyone there and have some great conversations.

This wasn’t just at the keynote, but every line or event around WWDC. One of the best things was just being able to have conversations with everyone there.

One of the fun things about publishing this post so late is that I get the opportunity to get rid of some parts that don’t make any sense anymore, like me saying that every iOS app will have a Catalyst counterpart. Luckily I won’t make that mistake and we can just focus on the documentation being a bit lacklustre at the moment.

SwiftUI

So what am I most excited about? SwiftUI, even though I realise that the tools currently are buggy, my machine is too slow for the previews and that there are very strange inconsistent behaviours between xcode versions and SDKs, I’m still excited. I’m not using it in production yet, and I probably won’t for a while. But knowing that Apple has focus on rolling out something new and not being scared to try something new is something I see as a good sign for the platform. I just hope that next year Apple focusses a bit more on the documentation so I don’t have to dive in to all the videos on SwiftUI (Session 204).

Going Again?

I would love to. It was great seeing the people I’ve known online for years in person, being able to see the people I listen in for multiple hours per week. Being able to walk to an Apple Engineer and get a 1-on-1 explanation of my issue instead of hoping for a response on Apple’s bug reporter. But on saying that, I don’t know if I will go next year. WWDC is expensive, especially if you’re not from the US and have to fly out, get expensive accommodation. There is a lot of preparation, especially for something you don’t know that you’ll even get a ticket for since it’s a lottery. That won’t stop me from trying though.

418teapot?

I’ve been active on Twitter for years (13 years coming up in March), and before that I’ve had numerous websites; blogs, hosted for me; self hosted. I’ve moved from one ‘Twitter’ killer to the other. Remember Pownce? Remember Plurk?

These services have come and gone, they’ve become irrelevant, or I didn’t understand how backups worked and lost all my content.

I’ve been wanting to share more of what I’ve been doing lately, and Twitter just doesn’t seem to be the best place to do it. Visible for a second; and forgotten the next. I’m an engineer I could self host, either run a Wordpress blog or setup a CI/CD pipeline and automatically generate html and publish that to Amazon AWS. I was intending to do that. That’s why I registered this domain more than a year ago.

A name that’s a bit abstract, but also a standard. It defines who I am (I drink a lot of tea) and it’s something that’s not weird to say in public.

Micro.blog

So here we are; one year later. I finally got around to this checkbox on my todo list. In the end I didn’t go self hosted, I decided to go for a service that seems to be doing exactly what I want. Simple, elegant and straightforward, I finally activated my micro.blog account.